Protecting the oil sands

by Milan on November 22, 2010

in Climate change, Oil sands

According to an article in today’s Globe and Mail, Canadian bureaucrats are actively lobbying against laws overseas that would restrict the use of carbon-intensive fuels from sources like the oil sands:

In one series of e-mails dated December, 2008, Paul Khanna, a senior official at Natural Resources Canada, convened a meeting of colleagues, noting that the oil sands sector “has emerged as one of the high priority files” for the government, and sent around briefing notes from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the industry lobbying arm.

The documents, which groups obtained under Access to Information, note that the Department of Foreign Affairs has launched an “oil sands advocacy” effort in the United States to counter what one official refers to as “political lobbying” against the oil sands – including California’s low-carbon fuel regulations and a U.S. law that would prevent government departments from using fuels that result in high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmentalist Graham Saul said the campaign to defend the oil sands is consistent with the government’s approach of doing nothing at home and obstructing progress on climate regulations internationally.

The documents reveal “a concerted effort to weaken climate policies outside our borders, with the aim of ensuring that no doors are closed to Canada’s highly polluting tar sands,” said Mr. Saul, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada.

“In other words, Canada is not just exporting dirty oil any more; we’re also exporting dirty policies.”

As explained previously, the biggest problem with the oil sands from a climatic perspective isn’t really the greenhouse gas emissions per litre of fuel produced. Rather, it is the sheer size of the fossil fuel reserve. Putting all that carbon up in the air would have a big effect on the climate.

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. November 22, 2010 at 8:03 pm

New report says Ottawa and Alberta are conspiring to kill climate change initiatives in other countries

Newly-released documents obtained by the Climate Action Network Canada (CAN) reveal that the Harper government has established an Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy in Canada’s foreign affairs department and that federal officials are systematically trying to kill clean energy and climate change policies in other countries to promote the interests of oil companies.

The findings are contained in a new report being released today by CAN, a network of over 75 of Canada’s leading non-governmental organizations. The report is entitled The Tar Sands’ Long Shadow: Canada’s Campaign to Kill Climage Policies Outside Our Borders.

. November 22, 2010 at 8:05 pm
. November 22, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Canada trying ‘to kill’ global warming laws: report

By Geoff Dembicki
November 22, 2010 02:52 pm

Canada and the Alberta government are engaged in an international campaign on behalf of the oil sands industry to weaken global warming laws, a recent report argues.

“Over the last few years,” reads a document prepared by the Climate Action Network, “Canada’s federal government has systematically tried to kill clean energy and climate change policies in other countries in order to promote the interests of oil companies.

The report shows in detail three pieces of legislation targeted by Canadian officials. In California, low carbon fuel standard legislation aims to reduce the carbon footprint of that state’s transportation fuel sector 10 percent by 2020.

The law would likely make fuel suppliers less likely to source high carbon crude from Alberta’s oil sands. That’s because the industry has a carbon footprint 82 percent higher than more conventional operations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

. December 9, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Aggressive climate action no threat to oilsands, government told

By Mike De Souza, Postmedia News

CANCUN, Mexico — Senior bureaucrats have told Environment Minister John Baird and the Harper government that stringent international climate-change policies are no threat to Alberta’s oilsands industry, Postmedia News has learned.

In internal briefing notes, officials from Environment Canada said that aggressive policies from the state of California are in fact consistent with Canada’s existing global-warming pollution goals.

The documents, released through access-to-information legislation, were based on an analysis of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which was announced by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Jan. 9, 2007.

It set a goal of reducing the carbon intensity of fuels in the state’s passenger-vehicle fleet by at least 10 per cent by 2020. Although the Canadian government actively and secretly lobbied against this and other international climate policies, arguing they could harm companies in Alberta’s oilsands sector, Baird was told the California plan would not have a significant impact on the Canadian petroleum industry.

“The LCFS is expected to have a negligible impact on the Canadian oil industry, as Canadian crude oil imports account for less than 2 percent of California’s crude oil imports,” wrote Michael Horgan, at the time a deputy minister, in a secret memorandum to Baird’s office dated April 12, 2007.

The memo, which coincided in the spring of 2007 with the release of Baird’s “Turning the Corner” plan to address climate change, noted the federal government had already set similar targets to the California plan in Canada.

. January 8, 2011 at 6:46 pm

What is ethical about the tarsands?

It is disappointing, but not surprising, to hear our new environment minister, Peter Kent refer to the tarsands as “ethical oil.”

What is ethical about crude that produces three to five times per barrel, the carbon emissions of conventional oil, while many suffer the ravages of climate change? What is ethical about massive leaking tailings ponds and a watershed under stress contaminated with cancer-causing toxins? What is ethical about a community, Fort Chipewyan, with cancer rates 30 per cent higher than expected?

Kent’s statement is not surprising. It is yet more of the same from the Harper (and Stelmach) governments. Weak, industry-led self-regulation continues to be the norm. While talk of regulation and water monitoring sounds good, the proof is in the pudding and the pudding is polluted with carcinogens. Why regulate when you can pretend that carbon capture and storage -which helps to justify more development and overall emissions -is an acceptable solution?

Kent’s words are yet more proof that the Harper government is leaning more on industry reports and Ezra Levant (author of Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oilsands) to inform its talking points than the truth. Canada’s tarsands are having significant environmental and social impacts. They are the cutting edge of humanity’s ongoing addiction to fossil fuels and descent into reliance on unconventional sources instead of greater energy conservation, efficiency and renewable sources. Canada has a moral responsibility to change course, and quickly.

Andrea Harden-Donahue,


. March 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm

People at the meeting in March 2010 agreed to “turn up the volume” and worked on “upping their game” in a public relations strategy to counter Alberta’s “dirty oil” image and foreign climate change and environmental policies.

Previously released emails and documents revealed last fall that the Harper government had adopted a multi-department communications strategy to “kill” foreign environmental policies and ensure that “the oil keeps a-flowing” from Alberta into the U.S. marketplace.

Carson had said he was actively doing outreach work for with the industry through a series of town-hall meetings across North America with oil and gas executives in recent months while promoting another industry lobby group, the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, of which he was a vice-chairman. This lobby group, made up of energy companies and large corporations, is a partner of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and is hoping to eventually influence government policies in its calls for a national energy strategy that supports the industry’s sustainable growth.

. March 22, 2011 at 8:09 am

Canada’s ambassador to the European Union privately promised EU politicians a year ago that the government would bring in regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands, newly released documents indicate. But Ottawa has yet to act on that commitment.

Meetings between Ambassador Ross Hornby and European parliamentarians were part of a campaign to derail the EU’s proposed clean-fuel standards that would penalize the oil sands as “dirty fuel.”

The industry is worried the EU will add to the momentum among U.S. states to adopt low-carbon fuel regulations that would penalize refiners who use crude from the oil sands.

In concert with the oil industry and province of Alberta, the federal government has launched an “engagement strategy” aimed at burnishing the image of the oil sands in the U.S. and Europe.

. June 2, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Canada tries to hide Alberta tar sands carbon emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands are on the rise, but try finding that in Canada’s official report to the UN

. June 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm

OTTAWA — The federal government has acknowledged that it deliberately excluded data indicating a 20 per cent increase in annual pollution from Canada’s oilsands industry in 2009 from a recent 567-page report on climate change that it was required to submit to the United Nations.

. June 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm

“The data also indicated that emissions per barrel of oil produced by the sector is increasing, despite claims made by the industry in an advertising campaign.

“The oilsands remain Canada’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas pollution, and they’re the subject of a huge amount of attention and scrutiny in Canada and internationally,” said Clare Demerse, director of climate change at the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based environmental research group. “So it’s very disappointing to see Environment Canada publish a 500-page report that leaves out these critical numbers — especially when last year’s edition included them.”

Overall, Environment Canada said that the oilsands industry was responsible for about 6.5 per cent of Canada’s annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2009, up from five per cent in 2008. This also indicates a growth in emissions that is close to about 300 per cent since 1990, which cancel out many reductions in pollution from other economic sectors.”

. May 2, 2012 at 7:32 am

Oil, dissent and the future of Canada

From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, May. 02, 2012 2:00AM EDT

“Mommy, why does the government think you are a terrorist?”

The question came from my son the day after the news media reported that the federal government was contemplating changing the definition of domestic terrorism to include environmentalism.

I spent the past couple of years working internationally and came home to what I thought was an important debate over Canada’s future energy landscape. With Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s open letter attempting to silence Canadians who want to participate in that debate and attacking those concerned about the rapid expansion of the oil sands, pipelines and tanker traffic, I realized that what we are facing is a much bigger issue of democracy and freedom of speech. When this was followed up with an attack on environmental charities, many opinion leaders recognized we are experiencing a witch hunt.

With the 2012 budget, I watched in horror as the government in Ottawa gutted the environmental laws that protect our air, water and fisheries. Many of Canada’s opinion leaders are now wondering if we are dealing with an all-out war on nature.

As I reflect on the events of the past few months, I realize we are engaged in a fight for the soul of Canada.

Do we want to reinforce and renew the Canadian values of tolerance, fairness and doing the right thing in a changing world? Or do we now define “Canadian” as intolerant of anything other than oil, unfairness to other economic sectors, vulnerable countries and our children, and decidedly doing the wrong thing in the face of overwhelming evidence?

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